|Elsa Andersson 1897-1922|
As a young woman, Elsa started looking to the sky for inspiration. She knew that Sweden’s pioneer aviator and aircraft designer Enoch Thulin ran a flight school and decided to enroll. She became the second of two women to enroll and she and Ruth Bergman worked hard as the school’s first female students. But Ruth dropped out for some reason, leaving Elsa to earn the first pilot’s license by a Swedish woman (1920). Interestingly, she was also Thulin’s last student.
Elsa was proud of her new pilot’s license (ticket #203) and eager to increase her skills. She wanted to learn parachuting, but Sweden’s only qualified skydiving instructor, Raoul Thörnblad, refused to teach women the skill. With grit and stubborn resolve, Elsa traveled to Berlin, Germany to train at Otto Heinecke’s parachute school. There she became Sweden’s first parachutist.
|Elsa, 1922 (source: Tekiniska Museet)|
A third exhibition jump, scheduled in Edö outside Askersund in 1922, drew a crowd of 3000-4000 people, who had gathered on frozen Lake Alsen to watch. Unfortunately, it was Elsa’s final jump. Pilot Albin Lundberg carefully positioned the plane somewhere between 600 and 700 meters above the jump site, but upon jumping, the parachute cord tangled around Elsa’s arm. By the time the chute opened, it was too late. Elsa crashed to the ground and died on impact. She was twenty-five.
An interesting aftermath is two more jumpers died in Stockholm four years later, both due to parachute malfunctions. As a result, Swedish authorities established restrictions to protect future skydivers. The Royal Swedish Aero Club also built a three meter high obelisk (a memorial stone) in Elsa’s memory at the crash site.
|Elsa's memorial stone. © Magnus Posse|
Micky Axton (1919-2010) USA
Jacqueline Auriol (1917-2000) France
Valérie André (1922- ) France
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsa_Andersson; https://www.flickr.com/photos/tekniskamuseet/12835746874; http://skydiving-encyclopedia.com/wiki/skydiving/10-fears-of-falling-risks-safety/10-2-risk-death/parachuting-and-skydiving-risk/; http://memim.com/elsa-andersson.html; http://girlsgrowupstrong.blogspot.com/2014/08/elsa-theresa-andersson-april-27-1897.html; http://www.panoramio.com/photo/8919034; http://america.pink/elsa-andersson_1417833.html